Dec. 9 — Happy Monday morning! Christmas is getting closer, and I hope my 12 Days of Christmas Book Giveaways is getting you in the Christmas mood. The latest book is up, and it’s pretty cute, so have a go at winning it.
We had a couple of book-related items going in the newspaper this past week. The groundbreaking for Vinton’s new library took place Thursday morning. The new building hopefully will be open in fall or winter 2015. There’s an artist’s rendering of it online, and I hope Vinton residents will be pleased.
Kind of sort of locally, the experiences of World War II veterans in Charlottesville were compiled into a book. The book is not officially available to the public, but what a great way to immortalize these brave men and women who, alas, are leaving us as the years go by.
As for my personal reading, I had just started Alison Weir’s biography of Elizabeth of York when a book to review dropped in my lap. “Virginia’s Legendary Santa Trains” is about the Santa trains that sprang up in the state in the 1950s and the collaboration of downtown stores and railways in post World War II America. I don’t know anything about trains and I thought it was pretty interesting, especially the parts about Roanoke. The review is scheduled to come out Dec. 22 with (fingers crossed) fun pictures. I’m too historyed out to return to Elizabeth of York, so I’m going to grab a Jennifer Weiner novel and curl up with that.
The Christmas book giveaways will continue this week, but those will be the only blog posts, as I’m out of the office. I’ll be checking in now and then, however, so please share your book news!
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Dec. 2 — Good morning, and I hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving. I still feel a bit food coma around the edges. It may be because I just ate a big packet of sunflower seeds and some wine gums from The Candy Shop in downtown Roanoke.
Some local news for you, courtesy of new retail reporter Tiffany Holland. 11 Giles Bookstore in Dublin is closing its physical location and shifting to just online sales. It’s to do with the ownership of the building, not the health of the store, which is good because it’s good for independent bookstores to flourish. In Roanoke, St. John’s Episcopal Church has opened a new bookstore called Canterbury Books and Gifts. You may recognize the manager: She used to work at Ram’s Head at Towers Shopping Center.
My big news is that today is the first day of the 12 days of Christmas book giveaways. I’m giving out holiday-related books over the next dozen days, so keep checking in to see what’s on offer.
I finished the underwhelming book about Iran and cleansed my palate, if you will, with “One For the Money” by Janet Evanovich. I raced through “Lean Mean Thirteen” a couple of months ago, so I thought I’d start from the beginning. “One For the Money” surprised me; it was much darker than I thought it would be, what with the psycho rapist murderer boxer. I read about the movie when it came out, so I was expecting something a little more PG-13, but psycho rapist murderer boxers are not PG-13 at all. I’m sure I’ll pick up “Two for the Dough” at some point. Now, I’ve moved on to a biography of Elizabeth of York by Allison Weir. I’ve just started, so no comments yet, but what is it with the Houses of Lancaster and York? Books, a TV show — it’s like they are overshadowing the Tudors.
Let me know how your holiday reading went. And if you come across any good Cyber Monday book deals, mention them in the comments.
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Nov. 25 — Looks like all the book news happened last week, because I’ve got nothing new to tell you about this week. Boo hiss.
I’m still plugging away at “The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay.” It’s not as good as I thought it would be; it’s surprisingly bland. The chapter I’m reading now has an anonymous person talking about the time he spent in prison because he was suspected of being a revolutionary leader. It’s kind of interesting, but I don’t know this person, and I’m more interested in the author and his family living their everyday lives in Iran. I mean, I get why Hooman Majd mentions the Green Revolution, but the transcribed interview is dull. I’ll finish the book, but I’m not going to review it. It’s not especially good or bad, it’s just kind of blah and disengaging.
If you missed my last post, I’m giving away beaucoup books at the beginning of December in the 12 days of Christmas book giveaways. I hope you’ll comment for the chance to win lovely books. Good gifts for you or your loved ones.
Aaaaand that’s it! Pretty slow going in my book world, what’s going on in yours?
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Nov. 18 — So much book news has happened this past week, I can scarcely get it into one post.
Roanoke Valley Reads concluded Saturday and has picked next year’s book: “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” by Jamie Ford. It’s about a Chinese-American man who just lost his wife to cancer and recalls his childhood during the 1940s and the internment of Japanese people, including the girl with whom he fell in love. It has excellent reviews, and the Roanoke Valley Reads committee believes it will appeal to men and women of all ages, according to a group founder. The book beat “The Submission” by Amy Waldman, a truly wonderful book set in the wake of 9/11, so I hope “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” surpasses it.
Two big-name authors have died: Doris Lessing, a Nobel winner best known for “The Golden Notebook”; and Barbara Park, author of the popular Junie B. Jones children’s series. I haven’t read anything by either of them, although I am familiar with the Junie B. Jones books. I never read any of them though. If you read any of Lessing’s works, do recommend them. She had a full and rich life that I hope is reflected in her work.
If you have any mail, swing by the post office tomorrow for some Harry Potter stamps. Yes, I am buying some. A lot. Maybe enough to last me the rest of my life. I won’t make any owl jokes because I’m sure they’ve all been made already (at least that’s what it feels like).
On a personal note, I am reading “The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay” by Hooman Majd. The author, his wife and baby son move to his homeland of Iran for a year, which is sort of a dodgy thing to do if you’re American. Majd unabashedly criticizes Iran, and I hope he’s doing it honestly and not to play to American sentiments or sell books. It is interesting, as culture clashes usually are, and even mildly entertaining, especially Majd’s wife’s dismay when she sees the difference between Iranian and American organic food stores.
We’re drawing near the end of November and NaNoWriMo. Keep me up to date if you’re participating and need some encouragement. Safe reading and writing!
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Nov. 11 — A few months ago, I reviewed “A Young Life of Light” by Harry Hathaway Warner. It’s about Warner’s grandson Patrick who died when he was 17 after a lifetime of illness. On Wednesday, Mr. Warner was at the Williamson Road Library in Roanoke for an author reading, so I hopped along to meet him in person.
It’s the first time I’ve been to local author reading, and I really enjoyed it. Mr. Warner talked about his grandson and how he overcame his obstacles, the writing of the book, and about other families who have gone through the same tragedy. There were about half a dozen people at the reading, and it was very cozy. I chatted with Mr. Warner and his daughter, who are really lovely people. I’m glad he sold more books.
The part I loved best was watching Mr. Warner and a couple of his friends from VMI chat — not just about the book and Patrick, but about mutual friends, computers, just stuff. I remember thinking, “When I’m in my 80s, I hope my friends and I can be like this, sitting around together, a lifetime of friendship behind us and many years ahead of us.” I felt like I was watching an intimate, private moment of a kind everyone should be able to witness, and this after Mr. Warner had shared the private, intimate story of his family’s loss.
As far as reading is concerned, I am between books right now. I finished “The Boleyn King” and am about to start “The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay,” by Hooman Majd. It’s about an American family’s time in Iran. I love this kind of book — first-hand accounts of cultures that I am not likely to experience myself. I am looking forward to it.
There’s still time to enter the Halloween book giveaway (gosh, Halloween feels like old news, I will start the giveaway earlier next year). If you or someone you know would like to win a book, or likes to share ‘n’ scare, jump in! I’ll declare a winner Friday. And if you curled up with anything good this weekend, tell me all about it so I can recommend it for print.
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Nov. 4 — So, you may have noticed a couple of changes in the open book stuff thread. Rather than create a new post every month, I’m going to update this one at least until the rest of the year. It’s too unwieldy to create new ones so often, and I’ve noticed people often comment on previous months, so I think this is the best course. If anyone has any ideas or suggestions, let me know.
Back to books. If you read today’s paper or visited roanoke.com this morning, you saw the Richmond Times-Dispatch story about the movie “Big Stone Gap.” It’s based on a book of the same name by Adriana Trigiani, who is of Big Stone Gap. Is anyone familiar with this book or this author? She’s written more than a dozen books, so if she’s good, that’s a good treasure chest right there.
As for my own reading, I finished “Emma,” and I now I really want to read “Persuasion,” perhaps Jane Austen’s least-famous work. Instead, I powered through “Hyperbole and a Half” by Allie Brosh. Yes, that’s right: Allie Brosh wrote a book and it’s as great as her blog. (If you’re not familiar with Hyperbole and a Half, scoot over to it right now. It’s hilarious and touching and quirky and I love Brosh’s simple dog.) The review will come out next week.
I’m still not reading “Persuasion.” Instead, I was drawn to a rather intriguing book I’ve had on my shelves for a few months now. It’s called “The Boleyn King” and it envisions Tudor England if Anne Boleyn had had the much-desired son. There are four central characters: William, who is almost 18; his elder sister Elizabeth; William’s close friend Dominic, a soldier; and Elizabeth’s lady-in-waiting Minuette. Right now, they are dealing with a plot that seems to question Will’s legitimacy, and the fellers both fancy Minuette. I’m enjoying it so far; it’s light and youthful. Will is very well done; he’s exuberant, self-assured and hot-tempered like Henry VIII, but there’s a keenness to him like his mother. It’s book one of a trilogy and I’m interested to see how author Laura Andersen stretches these characters out, especially as she’s all but said in the intro that Elizabeth Tudor still becomes queen.
If you read anything great this week, don’t forget to recommend it on books to curl up by the fire with. And if you want a book with which to curl up, the Halloween book giveaway is still going on.
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I certainly will not persuade myself to feel more than I do. I am quite enough in love. I should be sorry to be more. — “Emma,” Jane Austen
Last year near Christmas, someone bought the historical novel “Brothers at War” by Alex Rutherford off my Amazon wishlist. I never received the book and shrugged it off as one of those things.
That memory popped into my head last month when I was wondering how to spend a Barnes & Noble gift card. I ordered the book online. Last week, I realized the book never arrived and did a complicated dance with customer service to get my gift card credit restored.
Perhaps I’m not destined to own this book, I don’t know. I’m going to have another go at ordering it next week. If that fails, I’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way and march into the bookstore at Valley View Mall (where I bet it’s out of stock).
In the meantime, I am still chugging along with Jane Austen’s delightful “Emma.” I took a break to read and review “Mad About the Boy,” the new Bridget Jones book by Helen Fielding, and wow, not good. The first book “Bridget Jones’ Diary” was simple, modern and very fresh and funny. I laughed out loud throughout. The second, “Edge of Reason,” is one of those rare sequels that matches or even surpasses the first — also extremely funny and wry, with Bridget still so loveable with her haplessness. This third one? Yikes. What works when a character is 30 doesn’t when she’s 50 with a completely different life and serious responsibilities. It wasn’t particularly funny and fairly cringey in places. V. disappointing, as Bridget might write.
If you’ve read a good book, don’t forget to recommend it as something to curl up with during the cold months. Still taking recommendations there. Fill me in on what you’ve been reading and your literary escapades this past week!
Also, I’d like to publicly congratulate Michael L. Ramsey, who has officially written more than 200 reviews for The Roanoke Times. Mike is president of the Roanoke Public Library Foundation and surely is one of the most avid readers in the Roanoke Valley. I laud his dedication to quality reviews, the Books page in the newspaper and reading in general. Mike’s latest review is “David and Goliath” by Malcolm Gladwell. Mike, I hope to toast you when you hit another two centuries.
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Better be without sense than misapply it as you do. — “Emma,” Jane Austen
It’s been a quiet week for me in terms of books. I finished “The Brokenhearted,” the young adult novel by Amelia Kahaney. I had a lot of questions after it ended, but Kahaney tweeted me that she’s working on book two, so I hope that resolves them. The book wasn’t bad; the heroine, Anthem Fleet, is a mash of various heroes, including Batman and the Bionic Woman. “The Brokenhearted” contains a few obvious contrivances, but Anthem is a likeable enough character that I kept going. The review will come out at the beginning of November.
I’m dancing about impatiently as I wait for the third Bridget Jones book, which I pre-ordered a while ago and can’t wait to receive. In the meantime, I’m re-reading “Emma,” by Jane Austen, a favorite author of mine. “Pride and Prejudice” gets the most attention, but “Emma” is a lovely work. Why does no one write sequels about Emma and Mr. Knightly? No one zings like Jane Austen either, with the exception of Oscar Wilde.
I hope you all got some quality reading done as the weather cools down. If you can recommend a good book with which to settle down on a grey afternoon, suggest it here; if I get enough recommendations, I’ll compile them for print.
Also, the unexpected and random book giveaway is open until Wednesday. There’s a lot of generosity going on in this thread, and I encourage you to check it out just for that.
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My eyes wander back to Judas and his false kiss. Under someone’s ordinary face can lurk the most sinister thoughts. – “The Brokenhearted,” Amelia Kahaney
I’ve spent the past few days in Durham, N.C., eating amazing food and spending hours in fantastic museums. I got a good amount of reading done, too. I finished “Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls” by David Sedaris. I liked it; it had more commentary and less humor than his previous books, but I laughed out loud all the same. I love Sedaris’ observations of life overseas.
We stopped at a used bookstore while in Durham and I picked up “Desperate Remedies” by Thomas Hardy and “One For the Money” by Janet Evanovich. I blasted through “Lean Mean Thirteen,” so I figured I might as well start from the beginning.
Now I’m reading a young adult book called “The Brokenhearted,” another dystopian world book. The heroine, Anthem Fleet, falls in love with a man from the bad side of town. After they are attacked, she receives an experimental bionic heart that intensifies her strength. Anthem lives in the city of Bedlam, which indicates the nature of some of the characters. Her seedy underworld reminds me of a cross between Panem and Gotham City, and it’s holding my interest. Anthem is a ballet dancer, so if she gains amazing strength and balance, at least it’s not coming out of nowhere. Pretty good setup.
How is your reading coming along?
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One never contemplates the death of a son and, even more so, a grandson before his own. — “A Young Life of Light,” Harry Hathaway Warner
Smell that? That’s fall, my favorite season. I love the swirling, brightly colored leaves and afternoons that are pleasantly warm instead of sweltering. I even quite like the odd drizzly grey day that means I can relax inside instead of feeling compelled to be outside while the weather is nice.
Like I did earlier this year, I’m soliciting seasonal reads. If I get enough, I’ll ask features editor Lindsey Nair to run them in print, so please tell me what book you like to curl up with when the weather gets cold.
Also ongoing is the book giveaway about American meals. Food and words, food and words! It’s a very exciting combination, and I hope you’ll enter. If you want to learn more about the book, there’s a review linked in that thread. I’m out of the office most of this week and won’t have any new threads to add, so I hope everyone dives into the giveaway and seasonal reads.
I finished “Lionheart” by Sharon Kay Penman last week and I enjoyed it more than I expected. The first few chapters bounced among perspectives, but once Richard I came on scene, Penman stuck mostly with him, which is what I wanted. It’s about the Crusades, so a fairly militaristic work, but not off-puttingly so. I did give up on trying to keep track of all the minor characters, but I don’t think that hurt me. Most of the historical fiction I read is from a woman’s perspective, so I enjoyed this foray into a different point of view.
I’m reading now “A Young Life of Light” by Harry Hathaway Warner. Mr. Warner lives in Lexington and contacted me about his recently published work that came out in August. It’s about his grandson Patrick who, unfortunately, was diagnosed with the genetic disorder Marfan’s and died when he was 17. Mr. Warner, I don’t know if you read my blog, but I am sorry for your loss and I hope writing this book brought you solace. I am only one-fifth of the way through the book so far, but I can tell already it has a lot of heart.
I’d love to know what you read this weekend and what you plan to read this week. Let me know, folks!